Sleek, tiled precision

By Nick Wright

May 2011 - With the myriad uses aluminum already fulfills, it's hard to believe something as ubiquitous as flooring hasn't been covered by the malleable metal. The common, textured sheets found in truck beds and workshops are versatile, but usually are suited for function over aesthetics. For the latter appeal, AlumaFloor, Addison, Ill., has invented a sleek aluminum tile that's redefining what's underfoot.

"Designers are constantly looking for the next best thing and in terms of flooring, we believe we have it," says Frank Pozdol, president of AlumaFloor. "We have seen offices transformed with a simple installation of our new flooring. It screams modern."

Pozdol's company, formally known as Powerstretch, had been installing commercial flooring around Chicago since 1972. Powerstretch's evolution into AlumaFloor began in 2000 after architecture firm Holabird and Root hired Pozdol to quote a flooring job for its conference room. The architect, Rem Koolhaas, specified an aluminum floor, which Pozdol found no distributor offered, according to AlumaFloor's website. So he developed tiles himself with a local fabricator.

Holabird and Root then teamed with Koolhaas to design the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, for which they also used Pozdol's aluminum floor tiling. "It was our first job, 23,000 square feet, and it put us on the map," Pozdol recalls of the 2003 completion. AlumaFloor now spans square footage for an array of clients' from universities and company headquarters to the Macy's flagship in New York and Calvin Klein Underwear boutique in Hong Kong.

Easily machinable, the 5052 anodized aluminum tiles are precision cut with beveled edges, minimizing seams and eliminating fasteners or grouting. The floor's matte appearance suggests the hue of muted pewter that, with hairline swirls, light scratching and wear over time, gives the floor a singular patina. AlumaFloor's neutral veneer lends itself to pairing with other design materials, as well. "We've seen AlumaFloor intermixed beautifully with wood, marble and tile floors," notes Pozdol.

From a tactile standpoint, "it's like walking on any other hard surface, like marble," says Pozdol. Plus, it is slip resistant. AlumaFloor's aircraft-grade tiles adhere to ASTM C 1028, the standard test developed to measure the friction of ceramic tile and similar surfaces, according to the company. "A few projects have been insulated with rubber barriers," he continues. "Very few customers pick up on thermal expansion."

Functional flooring
Currently, AlumaFloor treads, risers and landings are slated to complement two tapering stairways at Georgia Tech's G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commonsunder construction in Atlanta. The first stairway rises one level, widening from 23 feet to 28 feet, half of which includes a wood-finished seating area, while the all-aluminum second staircase telescopes from 20 feet to six feet wide, ascending four levels.

David Murray, senior associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Philadelphia, the architecture firm behind the Clough Commons, says the project warranted a specialty finish since it's a key architectural element in a high-profile public area. "Aluminum is both durable and decorative," he says. "And it fits with the palette of materials in these spaces' polished concrete, exposed structure, painted steel rails with stainless cable infill and other metal and wood accents."

Murray doesn't attribute one particular reason for why aluminum is a growing choice for architects, aside from that its simple trappings translate over to new modernist designs. "I imagine that it may be due to a fairly limited range of flooring material choices for high-traffic public areas," Murray explains. It offers a contrast to more traditional choices such as stone or terrazzo and as a metal, fits in with a modern palette."

AlumaFloor's tile and panel options are made from 17.21 percent post-consumer material and 33.35 percent post-industrial material, which provides two LEED points: recycled material and local manufacturing, according to Pozdol. 'At the end of its long life span, AlumaFloor is 100 percent recyclable. Aluminum building components can also be recycled back into similar products with no loss of quality," he says.

While AlumaFloor can be found in a few upscale residences, commercial clients account for Pozdol's clientele stronghold. In addition to the Georgia Tech project, a 3,000-square-foot rooftop for vegetation planter boxes in Los Angeles is in the pipeline.

As the customizable tiles have both blanketed expanses of floorspace and embellished smaller venues, AlumaFloor's footprint is expanding, says Pozdol. "Our website, our sales agents and completed projects are the leading factors for attracting new clients to our product." MM













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